These easy and delicious homemade Pupusas are filled with beans and cheese served with traditional toppings like curtido and salsa roja. They’re fun to make from home and offer a tiny taste of the food from the streets of El Salvador!

Looking for more International Inspired Recipes? I recommend Chilaquiles, Beef Birria, or Cioppino!

A stack of 4 homemade Pupusas on a plate with Curtido and Salsa Roja on top.

I’m not from El Salvador, but have tasted many authentic pupusas from people who grew up there, and me and my family love them! This is my basic version of pupusas that I love to make my family in my home kitchen, with ingredients I can easily find at my local grocery store. We love cooking all sorts of international foods in our home and I love teaching my kids about other cultures and foods.

Why I love this recipe:

  • Cook Together – This is such a fun meal to invite the whole family in the kitchen to help, or even turn it into a party! The recipe makes a bunch and they are fun to assemble.
  • Fresh – You can’t get a fresher taste than making homemade dough and serving with Curtido and salsa roja made from scratch.
  • Unique – Not everyone can travel internationally, but cooking food from different cultures is a fun way to teach and introduce kids. These pupusas are definitely a favorite of ours!

What are Pupusas?

Pupusas are a traditional dish from El Salvador and are similar to a corn pancake with bean and cheese or meat filling. They are similar to a flatbread or pancake that is made with corn flour (masa) and can be filled with a variety of different savory fillings, like cheese, beans, beef, pork or veggies. They’re often with curtido and salsa roja (a Salvadorian red sauce).

You may have heard of Venezuelan “arepas” or Mexican “gorditas.”  Pupusas are like a cousin to these popular Latin American recipes as all of them are made with corn masa and stuffed with a variety of fillings. My family loves the delicious simplicity of bean and cheese pupusas.

How to make Pupusas:

Make Dough: Add masa harina (corn flour) and salt to a large mixing bowl then add the warm water, little by little, while mixing the dough with your hand until you get the consistency of a soft play dough. Add butter and chicken bouillon if you’d like, for extra flavor.

A glass mixing bowl with fresh dough from masa harina to make Pupusas.

Shape into Balls: Scoop the dough into large golf ball size portions. If the masa is sticking to your hands while forming the pupusas, mix a little bit of water and oil together in a bowl and dip your hands in it as needed, while you work.

A bunch of golf ball sized balls of dough on a countertop to make Pupusas.

Add the Filling: Using the palms of your hands, pat the dough into a disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Scoop a tablespoon of beans and place in the center of the masa disc then sprinkle on some cheese.

Two images showing the process of adding the filling for Pupusas. First, the refried beans, then the cheese.

Form Pupusa: Gently bring the edges of the dough up and around the filling. Pinch it closed into a ball, then gently pat/slap the dough back and forth between your palms to form it back into a disc.

Two images showing how to form Pupusas. First, closing the dough around the filling, and then shaping into a disk.

Cook and Serve: Place pupusas on a hot griddle or skillet and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, until golden. Serve immediately, topped with Curtido and Salsa Roja.

A stack of freshly made Pupusas topped with Salsa Rojo and Curtida, with the top Pupusa folded in half to show the filling.

Storage and Freezing Instructions:

To Store: Cooked pupusas are best served warm, right off the griddle. Leftover masa dough can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for 1-2 days. If the dough dries out, add a little more warm water to it before using.

Leftover cooked pupusas should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them on a hot griddle for a minute on each side.

To Freeze: Make the pupusas, but don’t cook them. Place them flat on a baking sheet then freeze them for 30 minutes. Transfer to a tightly sealed freezer bag and place them back in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, allow them to thaw completely and follow the steps for cooking and serving.

Recipe Variations:

  • Filling: Feel free to try different filling combinations. It is popular to include beans, meat, and cheese.

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Recipe

Prep 30 mins
Cook 5 mins
Total 35 mins
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Ingredients
 
 

For the Pupusas:

  • 4 cups masa harina , white or yellow
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter , softened (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste , optional *

For the filling:

  • 1 can refried beans , or homemade
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese , or Oaxaca cheese

Optional Toppings:

Instructions
 

  • Make Dough: Add masa harina (corn flour) and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the warm water, little by little, mixing the dough with your hand. You may not need all of the water. You want the masa to be the consistency of a soft play dough. If the dough is too wet, mix in some more masa harina. If it’s too dry, add a little more water. Mix in butter and chicken bouillon, if using.
  • Scoop into balls: Scoop the dough into large, golf-ball-size portions. You can scoop all of the dough into balls before continuing, or make 1 pupusa at a time. Be sure to keep the dough covered with a damp cloth as you work, to keep it from drying out.
  • Flatten and add filling: Use the palms of your hands to pat the dough into a disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Scoop about half a tablespoon of the beans and place it in the center of the dough circle, followed by a pinch of shredded cheese. 
  • Shape into disc: Gently bring the edges of the dough up and around the filling, pinching it closed into a ball. Gently pat the dough between your palms to form it into a disc again. Be gentle so you don’t have big cracks of filling come through, but if you do have some, its fine! They don’t need to be perfect.
  • Cook: Heat a large un-greased skillet or pan over medium heat. Place pupusas on the hot pan and cook for about 2-4 minutes on each side. You will know the pupusas are ready to flip when the edges are set and the bottom is lightly golden.
  • Serve immediately, topped with Curtido and Salsa Roja.

Notes

Bouillon: I prefer bouillon paste, or you can use chicken granulated bouillon or one cube.
Filling: Feel free to try different filling combinations. It is popular to include beans, meat, and cheese.
Storage Instructions: Cooked pupusas are best served warm, right off the griddle. If you don’t use all of the masa dough, leftover dough can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for 1-2 days. If the dough dries out at all, you can add a little more warm water to it before using. Leftover cooked pupusas should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them on a hot griddle for a minute on each side.
Freezing Instructions: Make the pupusas, but don’t cook them. Place them flat on a baking sheet then freeze them for 30 minutes. Transfer to a tightly sealed freezer bag and place them back in the freezer for up to 3 months.  To reheat, allow them to thaw completely and follow the steps for cooking and serving.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 108kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.04gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 173mgPotassium: 55mgFiber: 2gSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 136IUCalcium: 76mgIron: 1mg

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I originally shared this recipe May 2019. Updated August 2022.

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. I’m Salvadorian and grew up eating these and love to make them from scratch. I was so surprised to see them on your website because most people I know don’t know about them. The recipe looks good, but the dry look very dry. I would recommend adding a little more water teaspoon by teaspoon until the dough is smooth and doesn’t crack. Also if it’s cracking, drying out, or sticking to the pan, then the pan is probably not hot enough. One thing that scared my German husband was seeing the “burn marks” on the pupusas while they were cooking on the hot pan, haha. But authentic pupusas get a little toasty on the outside and some of the cheese oozes out and get toasted on the outside of the dough for extra flavor!

    Thanks Laura for sharing this recipe!

  2. 1 star
    Worst pupusa recipe ever, pupusas flour does not have butter of flavoring in the dough and are made with chicharon and/or salvadorian beans or cheese.

  3. 4 stars
    Never had these but sounded good, so I cut the recipe into 1/4 and tried. Pretty tasty, but no idea what it’s supposed to taste like, lol. Will try them w my granddaughter next. Ty

  4. 5 stars
    Gave these a try tonight. I made your empanada recipe a few weeks ago, better than the ones in Argentina and as good as Uruguay. I’ve had your Curdito in my fridge since then, constantly snacking on it! So today, these. While it’s been awhile since I felt soft play-doh, I got the masa dough down. Filled with carnitas and cheese..and they brought back memories of a little place we had them at in Belize. Thank you for your recipes! I’ll be trying more!

  5. 4 stars
    While this recipe worked fine, I found it nearly impossible to use because of all the ads that kept popping up on the mobile site! I couldn’t even close out of your prompt to sign up for emails because it kept redirecting me to buy some vodka. Once I finally got the recipe it worked okay, my only change was I oiled the skillet because the first two were sticking to it.

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve been eating Pupusas for 29 years, but this was my first attempt at making them at home. I was intimidated by them until I read your recipe. It worked perfectly as written. Next time I plan to make the cabbage and salsa sides for the full experience, and a stewed chicken filling instead of beans (although beans were yummy and budget friendly!).

  7. Years ago, I had a wonderful neighbor who heralded from El Salvador. I visited her in her kitchen often and my most vivid memory is of watching her make these. The way she rounded out the dough, stuffed, then rounded and flattened was mesmerizing and she made it look so easy. Soon after, I gave it a whirl- and I don’t know if it was because I will still such a novice in the kitchen, or because she had been making them for so long, but mine were rather sad looking.

    That was about a decade ago, and I have never attempted them since, but now I think I will. Thanks for the recipe!

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